Plan will 'free up' Northampton's Market Walk to become food court... or extreme sports centre... or a hotel...
A plan to 'free up' Northampton's troubled Market Walk so it can become virtually anything and attract investors has been announced.
It has been four months since the Market Walk shopping Arcade was put on the market for £2million - but so far it has had no takers.
The troubled retail centre has struggled with retaining shops and footfall over the past five years, and currently only 10 out of its 27 units open for business.
Now, in a bid to attract, consultants Award Design Ltd have put a plan to the borough council to show how the walk could become an ambitious, multi-use retail/leisure smorgasbord of shops and attractions.
The design statement makes a number of bold claims - including transforming nearly the entire bottom floor into an extreme sports hall and building a 12m climbing rock that penetrates floors two and three in the octagonal space in the centre.
Then, the designers say the first floor could be given over to become an open plan artisan food hall for individual stallholders.
Finally, the largely-vacant second floor to build "an affordable and funky pod hotel aimed at a youthful market", made up of 110 compact rooms for overnight stays.
Meanwhile, spare space on each floor has been earmarked as room for coffee shops, restaurants, food courts and new bathrooms to replace the regularly used restrooms currently in the basement.
The plan would, however, seemingly require the eviction of all current shops in Market Walk.A design statement submitted to the borough council by Award Design reads: "Peacock Place [Market Walk's original name] was already a dated concept at inception... A substantial proportion of [footfall] is due to market traders using its public toilets. 12 out of the 27 commercial units remain stubbornly vacant - indeed, the whole of [the third floor] is completely unused.
"Market Walk has long suffered from the decline in footfall, caused by the abandonment of the larger retail units by previously dependable Anchor tenants and from radical changes in consumer behaviour.
"It is our contention that the Centre needs to become a more flexible forum for spontaneous activity. The ‘High Street’ must become a mixed-use destination or it will decline further."
The plan does not secure that any of the proposed renovations will happen - rather, it allows the Walk's owners, Safeland Ltd, to divide up the existing space and mark them for new uses.
Safeland then needs to attract investors to fill and renovate the Walk's unit individually.